Today, we welcome USA Today Bestselling historical author Julianne MacLean to The Romance Dish! Julianne's first book was published in 2000, but I was introduced to her books in 2006 when I won an ARC of Surrender to a Scoundrel, the last in her American Heiress series and my favorite of all her books. The three-time RITA nominee's last full-length novel was released two years ago (When a Stranger Loves Me), but the wait will surely be worth it with her upcoming back-to-back releases in a new Scottish Highlander trilogy from St. Martin's Press! Plus, she has a novella titled, The Rebel, in the recently released Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. Lots of Scottish yumminess! Please welcome Julianne MacLean!
Julianne MacLean on Romance Cover Art – What Sells and What Doesn’t?
Hello Romance Dishies! This is my first time here, and I’m excited to be blogging about covers, a topic near and dear to my heart.
I confess I’m not an expert. I don’t have a background in graphic design. All I have is my instincts and my royalty statements, which tell me which of my books have sold better (or worse) than others.
Of course there are many factors involved in how well a book sells. I like to think that a truly fantastic, book-from-the-author’s-heart will sell for that reason alone – because it’s just plain good – and word-of-mouth will make it a success.
Sadly, that’s not always the case, and the old cliché still holds true. Books do get judged by their covers, which includes not only the front cover but the back cover blurb as well – which is what we,in the biz,call “packaging.”
So think about it – what made you buy the last book you purchased? Was it a sure thing because you were already a fan of the author? (If it was Nora Roberts or James Patterson, let’s just move on.) If, however, it was an author you’d never read before,what inspired you to hand over your dollars at the cash register, or click the “add to cart” button?
In many ways, a reader’s response to cover art is subjective, but there are certain things that can make the packaging “pop.”
My first single title with Avon, TO MARRY THE DUKE, surprised everyone with how well it sold, and the last time I checked, it had gone back to print at least 5 times. There were three factors in its success, which I’ll share here:
1. It had a red cover. Fact: Red covers sell well.
2. It had the word “duke” in the title. Fact: Duke titles sell well.
3. It had a creative back-cover blurb written in first person, which was fresh and different at the time.
My second book with Avon, AN AFFAIR MOST WICKED, did even better than the first and remains my best-selling romance to date. It, too, had three things going for it:
1. A white cover. Fact: White covers pop on the shelves.
2. A sexy back cover blurb, again written in first person, just like before. (Hint: continuity is good. It creates a brand.)
3. Which brings me to point number three: Front cover continuity. It resembled TO MARRY THE DUKE with the same fonts and an indoor clinch with vertical drapes in the background.
Okay… let’s move forward to book #5 – PORTRAIT OF A LOVER – my worst selling book of all time. Take a look. What do you think?
It was certainly different, and remains unlike any other romance cover I’ve seen. But here were the problems: It was brownish/purplish/grey. Not a very sexy color combination. The hero’s expression wasn’t broody enough, and romance readers aren’t ready to give up their tortured alpha males. And evidently, high art doesn’t sell romance novels, and the notion of an unfinished oil painting basically made readers run and hide.
To top it all off, there was no continuity to make it clear that it was part of my American Heiress series. It stood out like a sore thumb.
But interestingly enough, if you look at my reviews on Amazon, that book has the highest starred rating, and I still believe it was one of my better books.
So here I am with three new books coming out this year – a new Highlander trilogy with fantastic continuity. If you hold all three books up side-by-side, it’s clear they are part of a series; even the fonts are the same. The colors are gorgeous, the cover models are beefy and masculine – definitely alpha male material – and I go to sleep each night with high hopes that they’ll do okay and no one will be disappointed.
So tell me, what covers do you like best? Heroine only covers?Hero only?Clinch? Do you want to see the character’s whole face? How about a house and a sailboat? Naked parts?
The possibilities are endless, and I would love to hear your preferences, and one lucky commenter will win a copy of PORTRAIT OF A LOVER, which I think was only read by about twelve people :)